The New York Islanders took a commanding 3-0 series lead over the Pittsburgh Penguins with a 4-1 victory Sunday afternoon at PPG Paints Arena
Once again, the Penguins had no answers for the Islanders, who displayed yet another strong defensive effort, controlled possession, and kept the high-danger chances low. New York also kept Pittsburgh’s stars quiet as Sidney Crosby, Evgeni Malkin, Phil Kessel, and Jake Guentzel combined for zero points. The last time Crosby went pointless in three straight playoff games in the 2016 Eastern Conference Final.
When the Penguins thought they had an advantage — following Garrett Wilson‘s goal 12:54 into the first period for a 1-0 lead — the Islanders answered right back. Jordan Eberle continued his productive postseason by scoring his third goal of the series on a lovely shot following a fantastic feed from Ryan Pulock.
“We’ve got to do a better job of hanging onto the momentum when we get it,” Penguins head coach Mike Sullivan said afterward.
Eberle is now the third Islanders players in since 1994 to score in three straight playoff games, joining Kyle Okposo (2013) and Kip Miller (2002).
The home crowd was silent, and then the anxiety grew 62 seconds later when Brock Nelson gave the Islanders a 2-1 lead.
Finding themselves trailing in another game this series, the Penguins, as they did in the previous two games, could not generate enough to test Lehner and threaten any sort of comeback. Leo Komarov‘s goal midway through the third period put the game out of reach and helped the Islanders improve to 41-2-2 when scoring at least three times this season.
The Islanders will go for the sweep in Game 4 on Tuesday night at 7:30 p.m. ET on NBCSN.
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• Jordan Eberle is thrilled to be back in the playoffs. “You get excited for these games. It’s a fun time of the year. I played in the playoffs a couple of years ago and it didn’t go too well personally. I got a lot of criticism for it, and I really wanted to come out and play hard this year.” (NHL.com)
• University of Minnesota-Duluth head coach Scott Sandelin has had a ton of success at the college level, but he hasn’t had an opportunity in the NHL just yet. (The Hockey News)
• Rotoworld’s Gus Katsaros picked one player on each team that might be a difference maker in the playoffs. (Rotoworld)
The Columbus Blue Jackets added some major firepower during the trade deadline, but for the most part, those additions haven’t really paid off.
Columbus fired 31 shots on goal on Monday, but none of them beat Thomas Greiss, as the New York Islanders won 2-0. This marks the second time in three games that the Blue Jackets have been shut out, and the third time they’ve been blanked since the trade deadline.
Again, it’s tough to knock the general effort levels of the Blue Jackets.
Matt Duchene‘s likely going to absorb more jokes about being a “curse,” and with just an assist in his last six games, he hasn’t necessarily been the shot-in-the-arm Columbus was expecting. Still, he fired four SOG in this game alone, so it’s not as though Duchene was just going through the motions.
This wasn’t a case of Sergei Bobrovsky dropping the ball, either. He only allowed a booming Ryan Pulock goal in this one, as the other Islanders goal was an empty-netter.
Unfortunately, moral victories are only going to carry so much weight for Columbus right now.
While the Islanders moved within two points of the top spot in the Metro Division, the Blue Jackets failed to increase their breathing room in front of the idle Montreal Canadiens for the East’s second wild-card spot. They’ll finish Monday in playoff position, but the margin for error looks razor-thin:
WC 2: Blue Jackets: 38-28-3, 79 points, 69 games played, 37 regulation/OT wins
Ninth: Canadiens: 36-36-7, 79 points, 34 ROW
(The Flyers aren’t totally out of things with 76 points in 69 GP, while the Hurricanes and Penguins stand two points ahead of Columbus for the third Metro spot and first wild-card position, respectively.)
It’s not totally fair to throw the Blue Jackets under the bus here. For the most part, they’re putting forth the types of efforts that eventually pay off with wins, or at least “charity points.” Yet, that’s the downside when it comes to going for broke, particularly in the compressed time schedule of trade deadline time. Things can go sideways in a small sample size of games, which means that you run the risk of falling victim to great performances, such as Greiss’ shutout on Monday.
The Blue Jackets aren’t hopeless, but deep down, they have to be feeling pretty nervous.
1. Petr Mrazek, Carolina Hurricanes. The Carolina Hurricanes moved into a playoff position on Saturday night with a 3-0 win over the Dallas Stars (then celebrated like “a bunch of jerks“). It was Petr Mrazek playing a key role by stopping all 33 shots he faced to recorded his third shutout of the season. It hasn’t been a great season for Mrazek overall, but he came through in a big way for them on Saturday night to help put them in a position that seemed impossible for them to reach a couple of months ago.
2. Nikita Kucherov, Tampa Bay Lightning. Just another day at the office for Nikita Kucherov, the NHL’s leading scorer. He recorded his fourth consecutive multi-point game and is already up to 94 points on the season in just 59 games played. He is still having a season for the ages. Quite literally for the ages. These are Wayne Gretzky or Mario Lemieux type numbers he is recording this season.
3. Darcy Kuemper, Arizona Coyotes. The Arizona Coyotes have a brutal season on the injury front and are trying to hang on in the Western Conference playoff race. Their 2-0 win over the Toronto Maple Leafs on Saturday night was a big help on that front and it was driven by a shutout from Darcy Kuemper who turned aside all 22 shots he faced to shut out one of the NHL’s best offensive teams.
The Ottawa Senators’ big-three trade candidates all played big roles in their overtime win over the Winnipeg Jets as Mark Stone, Matt Duchene, and Ryan Dzingel all scored goals. Dzingel’s goal was the overtime winner.
Derek Ryan had three assists for the Calgary Flames in a 5-4 win over the Pittsburgh Penguins.
After losing three games in a row and seven of their past nine games the Vegas Golden Knights broke out of their slump with a big 5-1 win over the Nashville Predators.
Highlights of the Night
Check out this snipe by Columbus Blue Jackets forward Pierre-Luc Dubois to open the scoring in their win over the Chicago Blackhawks.
Boston Bruins goalie Tuukka Rask made the save of the night against the Los Angeles Kings. The Bruins went on to the game 4-2 to keep pace in the Atlantic Division.
This shot by Ryan Pulock to open the scoring for the New York Islanders in their win over the Edmonton Oilers was an absolute rocket. Perfectly placed, too. An unstoppable shot if there ever was one.
Chicago Blackhawks forward Patrick Kane extended his points streak to 17 games. This is the first time since 2009-10 that more than one player has had a point streak of at least 17 games in a single season. [NHL PR]
The Tampa Bay Lightning have three players with at least 70 points through the first 60 games of the season. The most recent team to do that was the 1995-96 Pittsburgh Penguins. [NHL PR]
The Winnipeg Jets did not win, but they did collect a point for the overtime loss thanks in large part to a pair of shorthanded goals. [NHL PR]
Saturday was the sixth time in Philadelphia Flyers franchise history they surrendered a four-goal lead but still went on to win the game. That is … kind of impressive in a weird sort of way. [NHL PR]
Phil Kessel became the 16th American-born player in NHL history to record at least 800 points in the NHL with an assist in the Pittsburgh Penguins’ 5-4 loss to the Calgary Flames on Saturday afternoon. [NHL PR]
Saturday almost makes you wonder if Randy Carlyle will be sadly muttering “Roslovic” in his sleep.
The young forward played a big role in the Jets humiliating the Ducks 9-3, as Roslovic generated his first hat trick while also adding an assist for four points. You could probably put some other Winnipeg players as 1B, as … you know, there were obviously a lot of goals to go around.
There were some other players who generated big nights, even ones who don’t play for Winnipeg. Ryan Pulock‘s a nice example, as he generated three assists to help the Islanders stay surprisingly hot.
Tarasenko’s three points came via one goal and two assists, so consider that a slight boost compared to others.
It’s been a tough season for Tarasenko – at least by his lofty standards – but the deadly sniper has been heating up. This three-point game extends his point streak to four games (three goals, three assists for six points). Tarasenko also fired five shots on goal and generated a +2 rating.
The Blues face an uphill battle to make the playoffs, although they’re improving their chances with strong recent play. This also really hurt Columbus, as the Blue Jackets’ losing streak stretched to five games.
There were some other strong goaltending performances on Saturday, but Bernier comes out ahead because a) he nabbed a shutout and b) had to make 35 saves to do so.
Bernier generated his first shutout as a member of the Red Wings, and his first victory since December. He’s not playing that much behind Jimmy Howard – and in all honesty, it’s probably better for Detroit that he struggles, at least for draft lottery purposes – but this had to be big for Bernier’s confidence.
Speaking of the Blue Jackets
While Nick Foligno believe that the Blue Jackets aren’t far from getting back on track despite losing five in a row for the first time in a long time, John Tortorella isn’t so easily convinced. He seemed pretty glum after the loss.
There seems to be disapproval from younger onlookers, too, though:
Obviously it changes nothing. And it’s FUN. I just can’t imagine, personally, being a player with serious designs on a Cup, sitting in a team meeting where a guy suggests we do a duck-duck-goose celebration if we win the hockey match and being like, “YES, we are on track.”